President Cyril Ramaphosa has used the ANC’s annual January 8 statement to renew the party’s commitment to fighting both the Covid-19 pandemic and the corruption deeply rooted within its ranks and the state.
Addressing party members and supporters using virtual platforms, Ramaphosa committed the party to a path of organisational renewal, which he said was essential to reduce the social distance between the governing party and the general population.
This included ensuring that conference resolutions ordering leaders accused of corruption to stand aside were implemented and that they were held to account.
The party’s secretary general, Ace Magashule, is among its senior leaders who are currently facing corruption charges, with his supporters refusing to accept the decision of the party’s integrity commission that he should stand aside while the matter is before the courts.
The recommendation is still to be ratified by the party’s national executive committee (NEC), which met this week to discuss the January 8 statement. It did not, however, discuss the Magashule issue.
Rooting out corruption
Turning to the ANC’s internal conflicts and battle to deal with rampant corruption within its ranks, Ramaphosa said the organisation had been “weakened by corruption, resistance to renewal and controversies involving ANC leaders”.
This had “widened the social distance” between the governing party and the populace.
Failure to resolve these issues would “have the effect of rendering our society rudderless at a time when firm and principled leadership is required”.
Ramaphosa said there was a danger that internal conflicts could “consume us”.
However, the party remained committed to the process of renewal, and to end “state capture in all its forms”.
“Across all parts of society, we must continue to provide all the necessary support to our law-enforcement agencies so that they can investigate thoroughly and prosecute effectively without fear, favour or prejudice,” he said.
“Those responsible will be held accountable and every effort made to ensure money stolen from the government or public bodies is recovered.”
Ramaphosa said the findings of the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture should be used to ensure that “such activities are never allowed to happen again”.
Ramaphosa said the NEC would push ahead with implementing resolutions of the 54th national conference that those who were charged with crimes should stand aside from their posts.
“Unity cannot be used to shield those involved in wrongdoing from being held accountable,” he said.
The party’s integrity commission would be strengthened further, with all members accused of corruption being brought to account for their actions.
The ANC’s top officials, he said, would finalise guidelines on the implementation of the anti-corruption resolutions.
Ramaphosa also committed the ANC to cleaning up its internal electoral processes, saying that vote-buying, the manipulation of branch lists, and the extension of patronage to obtain votes would not be tolerated.
“We will not stand for any member of the ANC bringing our organisation into disrepute. If they are under a cloud of suspicion, conscience dictates that they should present themselves to the organisation voluntarily, without being forced to do so,” he said.
In the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa said the ANC was committed to a mass vaccination programme, while continuing to provide social support to vulnerable individuals and businesses.
“To overcome Covid-19, we are preparing to implement a mass vaccination programme that reaches all South Africans as appropriate quantities of an effective and suitable vaccine are procured,” he said.
The programme would initially prioritise health workers and other frontline personnel, the elderly and people with comorbidities, progressing to a mass vaccination campaign.
Ramaphosa said there was a need to actively confront and prevent the spread of disinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus, its treatment and the development of vaccines.
“Above all, as we have done over the past year, we must continue to work together as a united nation to confront the grave coronavirus threat. Our focus throughout must be on saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” he said.
Ramaphosa said rebuilding the economy and aggressively implementing the government’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan would be prioritised, with mobilising investment to create jobs at the heart of this.
Infrastructure projects would be used to further stimulate growth, and investment was being promoted in agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and mining.
The first January 8 statement was issued by the ANC in exile in 1972 to mark its anniversary and to rally its supporters in opposition to the then apartheid regime. Since then, it has become an annual event that the party uses — particularly in election years — to mobilise support for its policies and programmes.